Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Japan trip Autumn 2015, Part 9 - Budgeting for a week in Japan

I avoided this topic for a long time. 1. because it's a bit bothersome to document budgeting for a personal, fun trip when you'd rather just go and enjoy and 2. because I've been hesitant to talk about money issues due to past feedback despite being directly asked about it.
I'm going to take a huge leap of faith and say that I'm thinking that this post might HELP others more than it HURTS me, but I really have no idea how it's going to turn out. The idea of this post is absolutely not to "brag" about how much money I have (which, really, isn't anything to brag about at all). It's really, just very simply, about budgeting for this particular trip and how it turned out. I do save money specifically for trips that I have planned so that I can enjoy them and spend as I see fit, and I don't feel like it's unfair for me to spend this money that I earn from my job on myself or however I want to. I do acknowledge that I am extremely lucky to have a decent paying full time job and to come from a middle class family that allows me to spend so freely on myself without having to care for others. But additionally, I do purposefully budget for things that I want based on what I am paid which allows me to take trips like this.

All that being said, let's get down to the details. How much does it cost to travel in Japan for one week (7 days, 7 nights)? In this post, I will financially deconstruct my whole trip as much as I can based on what I can remember.
Some of the expenses are in USD and some are in JPY but the total will be in USD (converted as applicable) because I live in the US and budget for myself in US dollars.
This post will only be discussing the "money side" of the trip and my personal budgeting and expenses. (I am not including my travel companion's budgeting/expenses.) If you're interested to know more about the activities we did or find more information about certain items beyond just their monetary cost, please check out my blog posts, linked as applicable.


When we were just flirting with the idea of taking a trip back in December 2014/January 2015, before we even booked tickets or committed to going, my very, very first, initial budgeting numbers to help determine if this trip was even remotely possible for me financially looked like this -
Flight: $800
Hotel (7 nights): $700
Transportation: $300
Food (for consumption): $350
Spending: $1350
Total: $3500 
(Thank you past me for writing this down on a post-it and not throwing it away otherwise this section wouldn't have made it into this blog post lol.)
These numbers were all rough estimates but what I considered "conservative" with a bit of room. The flight cost was set at $800 because I decided I didn't want to spend more than that on the flight. Based on past experience, the roundtrip flights between Tokyo and Honolulu can around that price or lower if purchased at the right time. Hotel was set at $100/night (each person) because we figured that could get us a reasonable room without making too many compromises for privacy, space or location. The estimated transportation cost is mostly attributed to the price of the JR Rail Pass which is around $250 and a little extra knowing we would likely be taking other lines as well. Food was evaluated as about $5 for each day's breakfast and $15 for each lunch and $30 for each dinner. I considered each of these amounts to be on the high side. I figured that any money that was leftover from the flight, hotel, transportation or food portions of the budget could go straight to spending, so I didn't mind those estimates being a little overkill.
Essentially, I was looking at allotting $3500 specifically for this trip. This was back in January and the trip was potentially going to be in November so that was plenty of time to save. However, I also had a trip to Japan in March this same year that was already planned (and already budgeted for), so I could only start saving for the potential November trip after that. But this still gave me seven months. $3500/7 = $500/month.
I looked at my monthly income, subtracted my usual expenses (rent, retirement, etc) and how much I like to leave untouched in my bank account per month, and I still had room for the $500 to save for the trip and some for gas money and other frivolous spending. Therefore, I concluded that $3500 was a very doable budget for me for the trip and wholeheartedly agreed to move forward with planning it.


Purchases or items specifically bought for the trip and paid for before I even stepped foot in the airport (and likely wayyy before that). We wanted to get as many expenses out of the way as possible, so if we had the opportunity to pre-purchase/pay for something, we did. Some of these things actually needed to be paid for or reserved before arrival such as the flight and JR Rail Pass. These expenses will not be included in the day-to-day spending (as they were not a purchase made that day).

FLIGHT: about $575.40, roundtrip from Honolulu to Tokyo (Haneda)
Booked with Hawaiian Airlines, directly through their website. The original price in February 2015 when I made the reservation was $649.50 roundtrip. I did a price adjustment when I noticed a price drop in April 2015 and was given a $74.10 credit (there was a $40 service fee to do the adjustment but it was still worth it). I already used this credit on my August 2015 Japan trip which I only really took because of the credit lol.

Voucher purchased through JTB in September 2015 (at most 90 days before first intended day of use). Free shipping. Because we were planning to go to Osaka/Kyoto and then back to Tokyo, this was a must-buy for us. Just that round trip on the shinkansen basically has the rail pass pay for itself. I am also personally most comfortable taking JR lines (versus private lines) and have purchased rail passes for my last 3 trips, so I have reasonable familiarity with its uses and worth. I really enjoy being able to hop on essentially any JR train at any time, including shinkansen, and being able to reserve tickets without too much issue. More information regarding the JR rail pass can be found in (Japan trip Summer 2014) Part 1 - Getting around/Hotels, (Japan trip Spring 2015) Part 1 - Pre-trip planning and (Japan trip Summer 2015) Part 10 - Travel notes.

Voucher purchased through JTB in August 2015 (could have been purchased for the month of November starting on August 1). Shipping is usually $14 via FEDEX but I had the Ghibli tickets shipped with the rail pass vouchers which shipped for free. In Japan, the cost of the tickets are 1000yen each for adults, but we wanted to be sure that we were able to visit the museum and therefore needed to reserve the tickets through JTB (as non-Japanese residents). More information about purchasing the tickets through JTB is in Part 10 - Travel notes.

eTicket purchased directly from Disney Sea website at 6900yen which converted to $57.66 on an American credit card in September 2015. No shipping cost, but you must print the tickets yourself and bring them with you. More information about the eTicket can be found in Part 1a - Planning for DisneySea.

AIRBNB APARTMENT in SHINJUKU, 6 NIGHTS: $327 (my half only)
Booked through Airbnb in February 2015. We chose to book for the overlapping Osaka night in which we would not be using the apartment at all because we didn't want the hassle of checking in and out with all of our luggage, and the convenience was worth the price to us. More information regarding our stay is in Part 10 - Travel notes.

HOTEL in OSAKA (Hearton Hotel Nishiumeda), 1 NIGHT: $57.90 (my half only)
Booked through expedia.com in February 2015. Free cancellation until 2 days before check in. More information regarding our stay is in Part 10 - Travel notes.

HOTEL in TOKYO (Prince Shinagawa N Tower), 1 NIGHT: $92.35 (my half only)
Booked through hotels.com in April 2015. Free cancellation until 2 days before check in. More information regarding our stay is in Part 10 - Travel notes.

POCKET WIFI (Pupuru), 2 DAYS: $29.55
Ordered online on Nov 4 for delivery on Dec 1. A wifi unit would be provided with the Airbnb rental, but we would need to rent another on our own if we wanted wifi for the last two days of the trip. More information regarding Pupuru rental can be found in (Japan trip Spring 2015) Part 10 - Hotels and Pupuru pocket wifi review and (Japan trip Autumn 2015) Part 10 - Travel notes.

HEATTEACH*: $40.70
Ordered online from Uniqlo on Nov 9 with free standard shipping for orders over $50 or more. (Christa and I did a combined order so we could reach the free shipping minimum.) We don't have a Uniqlo store here locally, so I had to order online. After discussing it with a few people, I decided it was better safe than sorry since I'm not used to cold weather and wanted to have it for the first day which would be DisneySea and would involve being outdoors a lot. Therefore, I would have to order it beforehand and bring it with me because I wouldn't have a chance to go shopping in Japan before going to Disney. I ordered two Heattech camisoles and 1 pair of Heattech knitted tights.

Ordered online from Amazon on Nov 17 via Amazon Prime with free 2-day shipping. Had to be purchased prior to arrival to be ready to use for the first day of the trip. My friend received this item for me because Amazon Prime shipping to Hawaii is nothing close to 2 days. More information regarding the charger is in Part 10 - Travel notes.

* This will be useful even after returning from Japan, but I'm listing it here because I wouldn't have purchased it if not for the trip. And if I didn't buy it prior, I would have likely purchased it once arriving and therefore I'm considering it a trip expense.

[CASH: $2000, approximately 242000yen
This was essentially my spending money for the duration of the trip for anything that wasn't already prepaid. It was to be used for meals, transportation not covered by the JR Rail Pass, entrance fees, frivolous personal spending and omiyage. Technically, this is a pre-arrival expense since I did have to have X amount of USD on hand to get the yen before getting to Japan, but how it was actually spent will be broken down in the next section.
I personally like to exchange my USD for JPY before arriving in Japan, but others will exchange once there or per day as they spend. Fortunately for me, Hawaii is a frequent destination of Japanese tourists and there are a multitude of currency exchange businesses, many of which have better USD JPY exchange rates than what is offered in Japan. Most of these businesses are in Waikiki but many local people will also exchange at their bank.
For this trip, I chose to exchange $2000USD. (Technically it was $1,997.10 because the lady rounded the USD down to give us an even amount of yen.) It was initially going to be less, but my mother gave me some money to spend (for things for her) and we usually find it better to have more money than less. (Plus I wanted to have a little extra just in case since I've never traveled to Japan with my friend before and I didn't know what shenanigans we'd get up to lol.) We (my family) also expect to travel to Japan again and having leftover yen after a trip isn't really a problem for us. Japan is largely a cash country, so while I will always have my credit card as a backup, I didn't find it unreasonable to have the cash on me. I've also found that having the physical cash will help me gauge/limit my spending a bit more. I exchanged the money at 1USD to 121.1JPY.
Note: I also had 26000yen and some coins leftover from my previous trip as additional spending cash. Total, I was bringing about 268000yen in cash.]


Expenses (paid by me) listed by what was purchased on that day based on the categories of Transportation (money spent to get from point A to point B or C and so on), Attractions (money spent on entrance fees or specific activities), Food (money spent on meals or food/drink that was to be consumed in Japan) and Shopping (money spent on myself or for gifts/anything that is not attractions, food or transportation.
If I bought food on Nov 27 and ate it on Nov 29, that food expense will only be listed on Nov 27 because that was the day of purchase regardless of the date of consumption.
These totals will not include any expenses that were paid for in full before arriving in Japan.

NOV 24 (day of flight from HNL to HND)
 Transportation: 0yen
 Attractions: 0yen
 Food: 0yen
 Shopping: 0yen
 TOTAL: 0yen

NOV 25 (PM arrival at Haneda Airport in Tokyo)
 Transportation: 610yen
 Attractions: 0yen
 Food: 399yen
 Shopping: 0yen
 TOTAL: 1009yen

NOV 26, Day 1: Tokyo DisneySea
 Transportation: 1300yen
 Attractions: 0yen
 Food: 1699yen
 Shopping: 3500yen
 TOTAL: 6499yen

NOV 27, Day 2: Hair Salon NALU, Shibuya & Harajuku
 Transportation: 170yen
 Attractions: 17860yen
 Food: 4273yen
 Shopping: 23528yen
 TOTAL: 45831yen

NOV 28, Day 3: Ghibli Museum, Shirohige Cream Puff Shop, Ikebukuro, Rikugien Garden & Nagomi no Yu
 Transportation: 320yen
 Attractions: 2300yen
 Food: 1566yen
 Shopping: 1472yen
 TOTAL: 5658yen

NOV 29, Day 4: Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari & Fire ramen in Kyoto
 Transportation: 0yen
 Attractions: 1000yen
 Food: 2050yen
 Shopping: 10666yen
 TOTAL: 13716yen

NOV 30, Day 5: Minoo Park, Kaiyukan, Tennoji, Namba & Umeda in Osaka
 Transportation: 540yen
 Attractions: 2550yen (technically a portion of this could be in the Transportation category, but for simplicity, the Kaiyu pass cost in full will be attributed to this category despite allowing for unlimited Osaka Subway access for the day)
 Food: 1964yen
 Shopping: 13477yen
 TOTAL: 18531yen

DEC 1, Day 6: Shibuya, Yokohama (Chinatown) & Seirinkan
 Transportation: 650yen
 Attractions: 0yen
 Food: 830yen (I was treated to dinner by my friend as compensation for her half of the pocket wifi)
 Shopping: 20725yen
 TOTAL: 22205yen

DEC 2, Day 7: Ueno Zoo, Alice Café & Yebisu Garden Place (PM departure, HND to HNL)
 Transportation: 720yen
 Attractions: 600yen
 Food: 4414yen
 Shopping: 44980yen
 TOTAL: 50714yen


Looking back at the outcome of trip (financially). Reflecting on whether the initial budget was sufficient, identifying issues or problems and making recommendations for the future. Amounts in JPY will be converted to USD based on the conversion rate at which I exchanged my cash for yen (121.1JPY to 1USD) for currency consistency.

FLIGHT expenses = $575.40USD
TRANSPORTATION expenses = $244 (JR Rail Pass) + 4310yen (day-to-day transportation cost) = $279.59USD
ATTRACTION expenses = $71.66 (DisneySea & Ghibli Museum tickets) + 24310yen (day-to-day attraction cost) = $272.40USD
FOOD expenses = 17195yen (day-to-day food cost) = 141.99USD
SHOPPING/OTHER expenses = $29.55 (Pocket wifi) + $40.70 (Uniqlo Heattech) + $7.99 (Portable charger) + 118348yen (day-to-day shopping cost) = $1055.51USD
ACCOMODATIONS expenses = $477.25USD (for 8 nights even though we only stayed 7)
TOTAL spent on Japan Trip Autumn 2015 =  $2802.15USD

BUDGET = $3500

Did I meet the budget? YES

Flight and accommodation costs came in significantly below my initial estimates (even despite double booking 1 night) which allowed a lot more money for personal spending. However, I really didn't do very much of it by my own standards. Looking at my shopping post, you'll see that I hardly bought any personal items (not for omiyage). This is mostly in part to my just not being interested in purchasing most of the current clothing choices due to the season. I usually spend quite a bit more on Liz Lisa items alone, but this time I was able to use a bit more restraint since I cannot feasibly wear most of the current stock at home.
I also came home with significantly more yen than I had ever anticipated, and it's reflected in my (lack of) purchases. I still had 103000yen (+ coins) in my wallet when I came back. And I would have had more if not for my little splurge at the very last minute at the airport about an hour before departure. I really don't have a lot of shopping to show for this trip, but for the most part, we did do one "attraction"-like thing a day, many of which were reasonably inexpensive in comparison to spending that time solely shopping imo. We also spent relatively little on food each day. We're not huge eaters and I myself am not all that adventurous in trying random snacks or things like that, so I came in at 40% of my original pre-planning food budget. We tended to eat somewhat minimally for breakfast and/or lunch on some days which unintentionally cut costs there. When I travel with my bf or family, we usually have a sit down lunch which tends to be a bit more costly than an on-the-go musubi or two.
I do think my original budget of $3500 is still a very reasonable amount to begin budgeting with and this particular trip is a bit of a shopping flop due to the season and more of an exception than a rule based on past spending. Another factor possibly worth considering is that I only had one check-in suitcase this time whereas during my last trip I had two. Therefore, I knew I had to limit my purchases a bit in terms of weight and space and that may have affected how I spent early on before I did a preliminary suitcase pack near the end of the trip. (I was very near the 50lb weight limit though.) I'm also not sure if the fact that I knew I would be openly sharing my daily spending here affected how I made purchases as well because this is another new variable. However, I have to say that I don't feel like I particularly held back on too much spending that I did really want to do and wasn't really intentionally being a cheapo or trying to save money or cut corners in any aspect (or wasn't doing anything moreso than I usually do on a trip). There were a few frivolous or "splurge"-esque items that I indulged in (like the haircut/color and the purse) but the other minimal expenses seemed to balance it out for the most part. I did enjoy the trip for what it was despite not bringing back a lot of items for myself and don't especially have any regrets financially. I honestly wouldn't have minded spending a bit more though because I wasn't anticipating having this much extra yen at the end. It can definitely be utilized on my next trip though!


It may be worthwhile to note (if you haven't read any of my previous posts in this series) that this trip was planned with my friend being the priority. It was her very first time visiting Japan and there were specific things she wanted to do. Obviously this budget will not work for every single person and it really depends on the trip (length, focus/intention, etc), but if you are considering anything close to our itinerary, it may be helpful.
Obviously you CAN (and many people do) travel much more cheaply than I/we did. You can easily cut costs in the hotel category if you stay in a hostel or just a different Airbnb or hotel. We picked accommodations that best suited our needs and felt comfortable with the amount we paid, but without question, there exist cheaper options. And although the total was much lower than I anticipated for this trip, obviously another place to cut costs is the shopping category which is highly personal to me and my habits. I have a friend who travels to Japan, spends most of his money on food and transportation and will pretty much bring nothing back - no omiyage either, so maybe $3500 would be outrageous to him. I was merely sharing the budgeting for my personal trip. I'm not trying to suggest or encourage people to travel the same way. That's not all the purpose of this post, and there are many different ways to plan and budget for a trip to Japan. We will all have different priorities when we travel. What's important to me is likely not at all important to many other people.
If you do happen to find this post helpful in the slightest, I do feel like what I've provided here can easily be applied to another person who wants to follow a similar budgeting plan if you just substitute your own details (per category). For example, if you know you want to travel to Japan at some point but don't know when it'll be financially possible, come up with your own "pre-planning" budget breakdown like I did at the beginning and apply it to your own monthly income and expenses. (My advice is that it's better to overestimate at least a few of the categories. It's better to have money left over than run out.) You may need to end up saving for more (or less) months that I did based on your individual situation, but having this information is the first step to making your trip happen while keeping financially stable! You can even start putting money in a secondary bank account little-by-little each month if you think that will help you keep your trip money untouched.
I was encouraged to do this post after receiving several comments or questions in the past. I'm really not trying to make this out to be some sort of budgeting bible. I'm not anything close to a financial expert, so please take what I say with a grain of salt. This is all just based on my personal experience, but I hope what I've shared will help you in some way. I don't mind answering questions pertaining to the trip budgeting if they can't be inferred from this post, but please know that I don't have the capacity to actually create a budget/plan on an individual basis for others. I'm supplying this blog post of honest and detailed information by category with the intention of it serving as a resource to help you help yourself. I know you can do it!
Good luck!
Japan trip Autumn 2015 posts
Part 1 - Day 1, November 26: Tokyo DisneySea
     Part 1a - Planning for Tokyo DisneySea
Part 2 - Day 2, November 27: Hair Salon NALU, Shibuya & Harajuku
Part 3 - Day 3, November 28: Ghibli Museum, Shirohige Cream Puff Shop, Ikebukuro, Rikugien Garden & Nagomi no Yu
Part 4 - Day 4, November 29: Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari & Fire ramen in Kyoto
Part 5 - Day 5, November 30: Minoo Park, Kaiyukan, Tennoji, Namba & Umeda in Osaka
Part 6 - Day 6, December 1: Shibuya, Yokohama (Chinatown) & Seirinkan
Part 7 - Day 7, December 2: Ueno Zoo, Alice Café & Yebisu Garden Place
Part 8 - Liz Lisa & Other shopping purchases
Part 9 - Budgeting for a week in Japan
Part 10 - Travel notes: Planning, Tips, Accommodations & Pocket wifi

Japan trip Summer 2015 posts
Japan trip Spring 2015 posts
Japan trip Summer 2014 posts


  1. Emi, I wish I can be as meticulous and detailed as you when it comes to these posts! This was really helpful in so many ways and it definitely gave me an idea on how I might start budgeting for my future adventures anywhere! :D

  2. I really do appreciate you writing this. I know that I was one of the people who asked about budget because almost everything I've read either suggest 1k and only eat at a 7-11 or close to 10k but nothing really that was in line with what I want to go for.

    This does give me relief that I wouldn't need to spend like 10k and yours is really realistic and practical.

    Thank you again for typing this up. I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciated

    1. So glad it was helpful! It's definitely possible to travel cheaply in Japan but it depends on what you want to do. There's also definitely an opportunity to treat yourself and splurge too! I find myself somewhere more in the middle since I don't spend much on food but instead focus on shopping, haha.

  3. This is super useful for me because me and my friends would like to travel to Japan after we've graduated school. Honestly, I'd probably end up doing similar things to you and it'd make sense for me to have an equivalent (crappy exchange rate and all) budget that you would have, or have a rough estimate on my own.

    Like the previous commenter, I've asked people who've been to Japan before and they told me they splurged like hell (sightseeing + shopping) but they ate conbini meals and onigiri all day. I like how your budgeting for your trip includes eating out as well.

    1. Honestly, I think Japan is not as expensive as some people make it out to be, but it definitely depends on the exchange rate. It obviously seems a lot more reasonable now at 121JPY to 1 USD compared to the 75JPY to 1USD it was 3.5 years ago. It also has to do a lot with specifics in what you are doing or eating and ofc how much the flight costs too.
      Hope you and your friends have a good trip when you go!

  4. This is a really detailed post :) thanks for sharing~

  5. This was a great post! I love the breakdown. Gotta love that current exchange rate.